By nature, cats are superb hunters who enjoy stalking their prey. For domesticated cats, the “prey” can be something as simple as an insect or a wind up toy. But, is it always healthy and normal for a cat to stalk, or is there ever a reason to be concerned about a stalking cat?
A Matter of Instincts
Even indoor cats have the natural instinct to hunt and to stalk. With an indoor cat, stalking generally is not a sign of hunger. Rather, they stalk prey out of curiosity or because they simply need to add a little excitement to their lives. Hunting and stalking also helps the cat get a little exercise and provides a release for pent up energy.
For the most part, domesticated cats prefer chasing mice or other small rodents. Some even enjoy stalking and catching rabbits and birds. A domesticated cat that is well fed will generally just play with the prey rather than eat it. In fact, it is rare for a well cared for domesticated cat to eat its prey. Many people think cats are cruel because they play with their prey, but this is just simply the cat’s way of satisfying its natural hunting instinct and of getting exercise.
When a cat uses its stalking skill to hunt for prey, it moves quietly and attracts very little attention. Cats particularly enjoy stalking in areas with high grass because it helps prevent the prey from seeing them. This stalking instinct can be a little disturbing for cat owners who are also bird lovers. If a cat has a tendency to stalk wild birds that the cat owner wants to be left alone, it can be a good idea to tie a bell around the cat’s neck. This will help warn the birds of the nearby stalking cat.
Besides destroying the wild bird population with their stalking and hunting instincts, some cats can begin to exhibit their stalking behaviors in negative ways. Indoor cats that are the only cat in the household are most likely to develop negative stalking behaviors. For example, a cat can learn the patterns of behavior of its owner. So, when it hears the owner arrive home, it might engage in stalking mode and pounce on the owner and bite him or her on the ankle when he gets home. This behavior is sometimes referred to as predatory-play aggression because it combines elements of play with elements of predatory behavior.
When this happens, the owner understandably becomes upset. The owner might yell at the cat or spray the cat with water to attempt to make the cat stop the behavior. But, this isn’t the proper way to modify this behavior.
Modifying Stalking Behavior
Indoor cats tend to engage predatory-play aggressive behavior more than outdoor cats. This is because indoor cats are more likely to become bored. In addition, outdoor cats have a far greater number of options for fulfilling their predatory behavior – such as stalking small outdoor animals, insects, and birds.
For the indoor cat, however, it is necessary to purchase toys that encourage the cat to stalk. This gives the cat the opportunity to engage in its natural predatory instincts in a healthy way. The cat should have access to toys that both involve the owner and those that do not. Toys that involve the owner help to create a bond between the pet and its owner. On the other hand, cats also need to learn how to engage in solitary play, and this includes stalking and other predatory behaviors.
Toys that are lightweight and easy to move are the best types of toys to help the cat engage in its stalking behavior. Bouncy toys are also a good choice, as are toys that hand from the top of doors or from doorknobs. Toys that hang from other items should be moved around the house, however, to help keep the cat’s environment different and enriching. Toys can even be hidden in places such as laundry baskets to add to the excitement.
Toys that resemble the natural prey of cats, such as mice, are also good choices. In addition, toys should be large enough to prevent choking, but small enough to be easily moved by the cat. The material used to create the toy should also be indestructible. Otherwise the cat, particularly kittens, will destroy the toy. This is not only messy, but also poses as a choking hazard.
A cat that is properly stimulated with toys that allow it to utilize its stalking skills will be far healthier than one that is not. In addition, the cat will be far less likely to pounce on or harm the owner or the household belongings!
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